Aicha Zoubair

Jessica Bell

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Julia (The Good Life series) by Sarah Krisch

Brad had taken up residence at the counter in the deli's dining area. He flipped through the Harmony Grove Gazette as he waited, not really reading anything but the sedate headlines. Harmony Grove seemed like a different world than the one he'd left behind in Iraq. So quiet. So normal.
Madi finally came out from the kitchen. She carried a plate of food in one hand and her opened laptop in the other.
"While you eat, take a look at this." Madi placed the laptop on the counter next to the plate with his roast beef sandwich.
"Madi, I don't have the patience for this right now. You know I hate computers. I just want to sit in peace for a few minutes before I get back to work."
"Humor me. Just don't get any mustard on the keyboard." She walked back to the kitchen as he sighed in protest.
He took a bite of the sandwich and glanced at the computer screen. Tangy tomato gushed from between the slices of sourdough. He wiped his lips with a napkin and did a double take at the screen.
A banner at the top of the screen read: The Good Life by Rachel Walker. And beneath the banner was the image of a woman sitting on the front steps of a wrap-around porch. Her jeans were dirty at the knees. She held her gardening gloves in a loose grasp as she leaned her elbows against her thighs. She had the most vibrant smile, the kind that elevated attractive women to striking status. He could almost hear her throaty laughter. Though she was physically attractive, what he found most intriguing was that she was getting her hands dirty, working the soil for some kind of gardening project.
"If only I could find a woman like that…" Brad muttered to himself.
Madi bustled back to the counter and placed his iced tea within easy reach.
"Recognize her?" she asked.
"Should I?"
"It's Julia McCarthy."
Brad took a closer look and tried to reconcile the woman in the photo with the adolescent in braids he remembered from summers long ago.
"Julia McCarthy? As in Guy and Trudy's granddaughter?"
"Uh huh."
"Are you sure?" he said, still not believing it. "It says here it's someone named Rachel Walker." He squinted, and then tried again to picture the girl who used to tag along wherever he went when he was a kid. He supposed he could see something of a resemblance in the shape of her nose and prominent cheekbones. "Yeah, I guess that could be Julia. How did you find this? And what is it?"
"I wasn't even looking for Julia, but when I stumbled across a link to a blog called The Good Life, I just had to read what it was about. After reading some of the entries, I realized I recognized her. I messaged her on Facebook, and sure enough, it's her."
Brad rolled his eyes. "Seriously. You have way too much time on your hands."
"A single mom's got to fill her lonely evenings somehow," she said. Brad turned and gave her a quizzical look and she punched his shoulder. "You know what I mean!"
"Sure, whatever you say. So Rachel is really Julia, and she's what… a blogger?"
"Here, scoot over and I'll show you. The image doesn't fit the computer screen."
As Brad took a big gulp of iced tea, Madi tapped a few keys and the image of Julia decreased in size. When it did, a menu of links appeared at the bottom of the screen. "I don't know why it does that. Websites should default to your computer settings, right?"
"You're asking me?"
"Yeah, right. I forgot who I was talking to." Madi clicked on the link marked BLOG.
"So what is this?" Brad asked.
"Julia, writing as Rachel Walker, is a full-time blogger. She writes about organic gardening, simple living, that sort of thing."
"A blogger? Really? You can do that for a living?"
"There are bloggers for just about anything you can imagine. And you can make money on it when you're syndicated by the Chicago Herald."
The bells rattled at the front of the store, and Madi looked up. The Worleys, a young couple with twin two-year-old boys, worked their way back to the deli.
"Looks like I have some customers. Go ahead and take a look around Julia's blog. I thought the subject matter might be right up your alley."
Brad nodded, for once not grumbling about delaying his return to work at the McCarthy farm.
"Hi, everybody! How are my favorite little guys today? Hungry for some of my famous PB&J? I have some fresh raspberry jam in the back." Madi smiled, greeting her customers. It was obvious she loved what she did.
Drawing his attention back to the computer, Brad clicked the numerous links. He was impressed not only by the variety of topics but also by the depth of her knowledge. Apparently the summers on her grandparents' farm had taught her well.
He clicked on the BIOGRAPHY link and read about her blissful life as a green Martha Stewart-type. She lived on a small farm in the Midwest. She kept bee hives for cultivating her own honey. There was an orchard with apple, pear, and cherry trees for pies galore. She managed a couple of acres for a large vegetable garden. Her farmette included a mini cow—Brad had never heard of such a thing—to supply the dairy needs of a small family, and a couple of goats for making her own cheese. She even had sheep for producing her own wool. The bio also mentioned that she had a wonderful husband and young son.
It figures, he thought. All the good ones are taken.
Brad was so engrossed in reading the articles that it startled him when his sister cleared away his dishes. In fact, he could barely remember eating at all.
"I didn't expect you to stay so long today, Brad."
"Sorry. I'll clear out. I know you need every available seat for the lunchtime crowd."
"Forget it. You've been here so long the lunch rush is already over."
"Is it really that late? I have to get back to the farm." He wiped his mouth with a napkin and placed twice as much money on the table as the bill called for.
"I'll get your change."
"Keep it."
"You know, one of these days I'm going to pay you back for all of your 'tips.'"
"I'm not worried about it. I don't need much. Besides, that little girl of yours is growing fast. I can only imagine all of the things that a seven-year-old needs."
Madi gave her brother a peck on the cheek. He didn't know how his sister did everything she did—a great mom, a successful businesswoman, a volunteer at the Harmony Grove public library, President of the PTA… and all by herself. Sure, he and Madi never talked in much depth, but there was more going on under the surface than either one would admit. They shared more things in common than most siblings. Both were alone as they crossed from their twenties into their thirties. Both would want nothing more than to find that special someone and make a go at having something resembling a normal family.
Brad nodded to Pauline before he stepped back out into the sun, the temperature a solid five degrees warmer than when he had entered Madi's. It was now the kind of heat that covered your skin in a sheen of sweat within minutes. And with the wind having disappeared, Brad's mood turned surly as he climbed back into his pickup, kicked it into gear, and pulled away. Julia McCarthy, he thought, unable to get her out of his mind. Little Jules, how did the little girl I used to push on that tree swing turn into a wife and a mother?
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Genre – Contemporary Romance
Rating – PG-13
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Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.